Buffalo Bill! Indian Bovine Sells For Record Price, As Beef Exports Surge

A water buffalo in India was sold for a record price of 2.5 million rupees (about $41,200), at least ten times the normal price. The prized animal, named Lakshmi (after the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity and beauty), belonged to Kapoor Singh, a farmer in the northern Indian state of Haryana, who sold it to another farmer in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Lakshmi is a Murrah buffalo, a breed highly coveted for its high milk yield.

For the price that Singh -- who lives in the village of Singhwa Khas in the Hisar district -- received, he could have purchased a small luxury automobile. He also made a huge profit on Lakshmi, since he initially purchased the buffalo for 250,000 rupees only two years ago. "I didn't want to sell [Lakshmi], but the new owner offered me the price I asked for,” Singh told BBC. “[The other farmer] had come last year and offered me 190,000 rupees, but I refused. He liked the buffalo so much that he made a video film [of] her and showed it in his village.” Singh added, however, that he is “very happy” with the price he received and that he will use the proceeds to pay for his daughter's marriage. The new owner of Lakshmi (who reportedly produces up to 32 liters of milk daily), Rajiv Sarpanch, told the Hindustan Times that he will enter his new purchase in local “best cattle” competitions in Andhra Pradesh, where the winner receives a kilogram of gold.

Haryana and Punjab are believed to be the center of the global breeding of the Murrah buffalo, which are not only extremely prolific in producing milk but can withstand (even thrive) in India’s hot climate. According to a report by the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, India is the world’s largest dairy producer (accounting for about one-sixth of the globe’s total), but only 10 percent of the milk produced in the country is processed and sold to foreign markets.

Richard Ipsen, research group leader in Dairy Technology from the Department of Food Science in Copenhagen, said that as buffalo milk is richer and creamier than cow milk, its popularity in increasing in India and could provide huge financial windfall for India’s farmers. ”We are trying to move the milk from being an artisan product, which is consumed at home, to processed product which can generate extra funds,” Ipsen told the University Post newspaper, noting that buffalo milk already accounts for 60 percent of dairy production in India. ”There is a potential to access export markets. There are lots of Indians living in different countries who are interested in these products. They may also be attractive to non-Indians, because of the novelty factor.”

India is already the world’s number one exporter of beef (primarily from buffaloes, although it is widely believed that cows, which are sacred to Hindus, are also illegally slaughtered for their meat). Buffaloes, which are not sacred to Hindus and can be legally slaughtered with some restrictions, are estimated to represent about one-third of India’s total bovine population.

According to a report in Hindu Business Line, buffalo meat exports from India could reach 1.7 million tonnes this year, up from 1.41 million tonnes last year “Our buffalo meat exports are giving a tough competition to other countries due to our competitive pricing and quality,” said Tarun Bajaj of the Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (APEDA). Since 2008, India’s buffalo meat exports have almost tripled.


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